Okay, how hilarious is this guy anyway? Oh my goodness if Don Quixote lived today, I think he would be my favorite person ever. What exactly would a modern day Don Quixote “look” like?
If you are familiar with the book, you know that Don Quixote is a delusional dreamer. His sidekick, Sancho is the pragmatic realist. This HILARIOUS episodic novel is filled with INSANELY comical scenarios involving these perfectly complementary fellows. To prepare for the novel, my students and I have a blast looking at ink blots, comparing notes on what we “saw” in them. Obviously, no two people saw the same thing. The question, is WHY?
Our lives are highly influenced by our perceptions. Ten people can be in the same room, and each one sees, experiences, and interacts with their circumstances differently. Don Quixote and Sancho can both look at a building on the Spanish countryside. Where Don Quixote sees a castle, Sancho sees an inn. One person must be wrong…RIGHT? In order to answer this question, we must explore the characters of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Sancho Panza is a simple country peasant. A pragmatic realist, Sancho has not only endured as a Spanish peasant, he has thrived. He knows and understands reality, because he has lived with it every day. He is a very “black and white” character. This is a man who has no notion of our modern motto: “Dare to Dream!” Agreeing to an adventure with Don Quixote is a big step for this adorable little man.
Sancho’s firm grasp on the “here and now” stands in stark contrast to Don Quixote’s visionary mentality. Don Quixote’s sleep deprivation and obsession with chivalrous romance novels has transformed Don Quixote from a respectable nobleman into a laughable maniac. His adventures in knight-errantry in an age where the knights no longer roam the Spanish countryside protecting the helpless and forgotten prove to be entertainment and hardship for those whom he “rescues.” Sancho tries to make Don Quixote “really” see what is in his world, but Don Quixote is convinced that his delusions are reality, and those around him are viewing an enchanted world that hides the “truth” from their uneducated, insensitive eyes.
If we all interact in the same world, why is it that our perceptions influence our understanding of reality? It seems that Cervantes wanted us to ask ourselves this question. If Sancho is a realist and Don Quixote is a dreamer, what is it that makes their partnership work? Clearly, Sancho is inspired and captivated at times by Don Quixote’s view of the world. He is often doubtful of Don Quixote’s perceptions, but he chooses to trust him. He gains hope and takes risks. In the same way, Don Quixote learns to place a measure of faith in his loyal servant. Sancho’s commitment to Don Quixote allows him multiple opportunities to gently coax Don Quixote in the right direction.
There must be a balance between the “realistic” view of the world, and the view embraced by a “dreamer.” Ultimately, however, the message is clear. It is always more noble to operate out of ideals rather than “reality.” This simple message makes Don Quixote an important book to keep on the shelves of My Musty Study.